Many people feel dissatisfied with their bodies. We might seek to be slimmer or achieve better muscle tone, or lead healthier lives. But why is failure so common in these efforts? Here are three basic mistakes people make, and none of them have to do with your level of commitment or motivation.
Pursuing the wrong reasons
The history of body weight manipulation goes back further than most people would think. In the 1800s and earlier, people saw fat as a status symbol. During those times, only the nobility could afford to eat well. In fact, photographers were discouraged from using models with hollow cheeks or visible collarbones.
Beginning with the Industrial Age, however, changes to production made food more widely available. Better nutrition made the masses generally fitter and fatter. The elites, searching for a new way to set themselves apart, turned towards Romanticism. The image of thin and sickly young poets and artists appealed to them, though in reality, these intellectuals were dying of tuberculosis (then known as consumption).
Thus, one of the first lessons anyone should learn about weight loss or gain is that people throughout history are prone to doing so for all the wrong reasons. Currently, people in affluent Western societies can eat much better than those in developing countries. Are we trying to slim down to distinguish ourselves from our overweight peers?
Focusing only on weight loss
Perhaps you do have healthy reasons behind striving for fat loss. You might want to bulk up to perform better in an athletic effort. Or you may want to slim down on a doctor’s advice to deal with obesity or its complications, such as cardiovascular disease.
Everyone soon finds that shedding fat is not as easy as feeding boxes into the HSM ProfiPack 425 cardboard shredder at your office. Machines must be designed to be efficient. Businesses must constantly make efforts in this regard. On the other hand, our bodies have evolved to be naturally efficient, and this constantly subverts our efforts to convert or burn fat.
On the surface, it seems like a simple equation. If you want to lose weight, you have to expend more energy than you consume. Inevitably, if you maintain that loss, your body will lose weight, and therefore fat.
When we adopt this simplistic approach, the problem we encounter is that the body adapts remarkably well to such changes. After all, it’s how our ancestors were able to survive periods of famine and other conditions of scarcity.
If you crash too fast, your body responds by lowering its metabolism. You’ll lose a lot of weight initially, but you’ll experience diminishing returns. The body will also seek to store more fat as soon as possible because it’s a high-energy reserve. So the moment balance is restored (because you couldn’t sustain a fad diet or high-intensity training, for instance), bodyweight swings back up. This creates the infamous ‘yo-yo’ effect.
Finally, our bodies also metabolize muscle in response to weight loss. Muscle tissue is costly to maintain. If the body thinks it’s going through lean times, it will cut down on such high-maintenance mass. Thus, although you want to burn only fat, you end up losing both fat and muscle.
Failing to work on all fronts
We need to recognize that controlling one’s weight is a complicated endeavor. There are many variables. You can’t just focus on one thing and expect it to solve all those problems.
If you’re overweight, burning fat is a step towards better health. And that starts with a balanced diet that gives you proper nutrition rather than excessive doses of sugar and salt.
But you also need to maintain lean muscle mass. Muscles give you the strength to perform various activities. It could be lifting a child in your arms or lifting weights, doing squats, or sitting in front of a screen for hours without back or neck aches. They aren’t just there for vanity; they are vital for functionality.
And you also have to watch your metabolism. Due to genetic and physiological variations, we all have a unique metabolism. But it will definitely slow down with age, particularly if you fall into the pace of modern sedentary living.
No single factor will drive your results. Each one interacts with the other. For instance, regular exercise builds muscle and maintains your metabolic rate, losing fat. Stop exercising or start eating unhealthy foods, and other variables suffer as well.
You have to work on many things in the long term. Only by embracing that will you succeed in managing your weight to achieve the results you want.